researching the wife’s role

Warning: This is L O N G. You may need a nap in the middle. Or at least a snack.

Here’s two things I read this past week.

The first, in an email sent to me from FirstHusband:

A woman died and was sent to heaven. One day while she was walking around on the clouds of heaven she saw God. She walked towards him and she stopped to talk to him. She only wanted to ask one question of him. So she asked, “Why did you create man before women?” God looked down on her, placed his hand on her head and explained, “Every good design needs a rough draft.”

(Yep. That’s FirstHusband. – Gotta love him!)

The second, in Chapter 6 (read it online here) of the book, The Excellent Wife, written by Martha Peace:

“Woman was created for the man, not man for the woman.”

Then Mrs. Peace notes 1 Corinthians 11:7-9 as support for her statement. According to her book, 1 Corinthians 11:7-9 reads like this:

“For a man is the image and glory of God; but the woman is the glory of man. for man does not originate from woman, but woman from man; for indeed man was not created for the woman’s sake, but woman for the man’s sake.” (emphasis added)

I looked these verses up on www.BibleGateway.com in an attempt to figure out which version of the Bible Mrs. Peace was quoting. The closest I found was from the New American Standard Version:

7 For a man ought not to have his head covered, since he is the image and glory of God; but the woman is the glory of man. 8 For man does not originate from woman, but woman from man; 9 for indeed man was not created for the woman’s sake, but (C)woman for the man’s sake.(emphasis added)

Why does she misquote scripture here?

Because quoting the beginning of verse 7 would call attention to the context? Check out verses 5 and 6:

5 But every woman who has her head uncovered while praying or prophesying disgraces her head, for she is one and the same as the woman whose head is shaved. 6 For if a woman does not cover her head, let her also have her hair cut off; but if it is disgraceful for a woman to have her hair cut off or her head shaved, let her cover her head.

The head covering verses? Seriously. The head covering verses? Verse 7 was misquoted to avoid reference to the head covering verses? Mrs. Peace is a big chicken. And I know that of which I speak. I’ve been a big chicken myself.

I’ve been following along with a study of this book, currently lead by Leslie at Lux Venit. I haven’t posted until now, because I’ve been the odd “man” out. And I’ve been chicken. FirstHusband’s email has given me courage. So did Leslie’s commentary:

“Honestly, this chapter left so much to be desired. Peace packs too much into this chapter without giving much in the way of explanation. I read this chapter four times and still finished just as frustrated the fourth time as the first. Peace offers a verse or two on which to base her statements, and that’s it. She uses the controversial 1 Corinthians 11 verses without any helpful interpretation, and verses from Ephesians that Paul himself calls “a mystery.” A woman without any prior knowledge or understanding of these verses would be very confused.”

I’m not confused. I’ve just lost some confidence in the author of this book. It’s not just Mrs. Peace. Overall, anyone (book authors included) who makes a declaration of God’s will without supporting their point with the Bible loses credibility with me. And when they misquote scripture or take it out of context in their attempt to support their point? Not working for me.

Here’s the thing. I spent years in the Baptist church, accepting and believing everything that was taught to me, without question. When I met FirstHusband (ChristianFriend at the time), he challenged me. He was ornery. He would draw me into theological discussions and take the opposing view, just to see if I knew why I believed what I believed. I don’t like losing. And I was losing those debates. A lot. (He later told me he was “testing” me and that I was the first Christian girl who didn’t slink away wondering if he was a Christian when he asked them difficult spiritual questions.)

So as a result of all these discussions, I started asking my pastor and other Christians lots of questions, reading my Bible more, reading commentaries . . . learning. Grounding my faith in Biblical wisdom instead of heresay (not heresy). Taking responsibility for my beliefs. Today, I no longer accept what others say without question. (Oprah has no power here.)

So if Mrs. Peace wants me to view her words as fact or truth instead of opinion, she needs to prove them. Convince me. Show me. In the Bible.

She’s not convincing me. Rather, she’s prompted me to double check her use of scripture.

Wary, but undeterred, I move on. I pass by the diagram showing how we are made in God’s image because it was so unbelievably simplistic, until I realize the graphic is being used to set up for the next one. Mrs. Peace is quoting a retired professor from Columbia University who compares the relationship of man, woman and God to the Holy Trinity. My first response was to be creeped out. But wait. Let me think on this one a few minutes.

I’m liking it. Very cool. Check out Professor Hatch’s breakdown for yourself:

The planner who makes the plans—God the Father.

The one who carries out the plans—God the Son.

The one who also carries out the plans as well as keeps and empowers Christians – God the Spirit.

In the Trinity, of course, there is perfect harmony. All are satisfied with their roles. There are no “power plays” or role confusion. Note how the Lord Jesus describes both His work and His role as well as that of the Holy Spirit:

We must work the works of Him who sent Me, as long as it is day; night is coming, when no man can work.” John 9:4

Jesus therefore said, “When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will Know that I am He, and I do nothing on my own initiative, but I speak these things as the Father taught Me. And He who sent Me is with Me; He has not left Me alone, for I always do the things that are pleasing to Him.” John 8:28,29

But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you.” John 14:26

Also, within the Trinity, it is interesting to note who gets the glory. The Holy Spirit did not come to call attention to Himself but to Jesus.

Jesus said, “But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come. He shall glorify Me; but He shall take of Mine; and shall disclose it to you.” John 16:13-14

In addition, Jesus did not come to call attention to Himself but to the Father.

I glorified Thee on the earth, having accomplished the work which Thou hast given Me to do.” John 17:4 (emphasis and red letter added)

Empower? I use that word all the time to describe my training philosophy. I can relate. I can also deal with the idea that I should “empower” my husband. Very cool.

Then I notice the word “helper.” That’s from the New American Standard version. It appears Professor Hack is attempting to call attention to the similarities between the word “helper” as it applies to the Holy Spirit and how it applies to the role of a wife. Is that an appropriate comparison? Going over to www.blueletterbible.com, I look up the word “helper” used here. In Greek it means “paraklētos” and I’m grinning because the part of speech for this word is “masculine noun.” And it’s being sited as a word for the role of a wife in marriage. But what does it the word mean? I also find the outline of Biblical usage for paraklētos:

1) summoned, called to one’s side, esp. called to one’s aid

a) one who pleads another’s cause before a judge, a pleader, counsel for defense, legal assistant, an advocate
b) one who pleads another’s cause with one, an intercessor

1) of Christ in his exaltation at God’s right hand, pleading with God the Father for the pardon of our sins

c) in the widest sense, a helper, succourer, aider, assistant

1) of the Holy Spirit destined to take the place of Christ with the apostles (after his ascension to the Father), to lead them to a deeper knowledge of the gospel truth, and give them divine strength needed to enable them to undergo trials and persecutions on behalf of the divine kingdom

okay. I’m dense. I’m still not clear on how this applies to the role of wives in marriage. I go straight for the Greek definition: “comforter, advocate.”

Okay Prof Hatch. I can be that for my husband. I try to be that for him already. And even though I’m saying that on the internet right now, I really don’t need to take any credit for it either. Is that what you’re saying? I’m okay with that.

I move on again, because even though I’m not down with Mrs. Peace at the moment, I’m not ready to stop reading her book yet and I am gaining new perspective. I am however, very aware that it’s Professor Hatch who led me to that new perspective, not Mrs. Peace. He made a statement and backed it up – with the Bible.

After the last quote by Professor Hatch (shown above) – in both the printed book and in the online text of this Chapter, Mrs. Peace doesn’t clearly indicate that she has stopped quoting Prof Hatch and has gone back to her own thoughts again. It’s always confusing when a writer does that, but in this case, I figure it out immediately because of what she writes:

So, Just as Christ glorified the Father by doing the Father’s “work,” you are to glorify your husband by doing the husband’s “work”. Your role is to glorify your husband. You were created for him.

And now I’m creeped out again. It’s the word “glorify.” Not EVER a word I have considered when thinking about what I do for my husband. Back to www.blueletterbible.com (I love this site!). Glorify, in greek it’s doxazō and the Biblical usage is:

1) to think, suppose, be of opinion
2) to praise, extol, magnify, celebrate
3) to honour, do honour to, hold in honour
4) to make glorious, adorn with lustre, clothe with splendour

a) to impart glory to something, render it excellent
b) to make renowned, render illustrious

1) to cause the dignity and worth of some person or thing to become manifest and acknowledged

Okay, some of it I get (although if I tried to “clothe” FirstHusband “with spendour” I don’t think it would go very well. Something like bathing a cat.)

But still. The word “glorify” creeps me out. I’ll stick with the word “honor” (#3 above) if that’s okay with you.

I’m also confused about what Mrs. Peace means when she says I’m supposed to be doing my husband’s “work.” Why does she put quotes around the word “work?” Jumping over to page 55 of the book (towards the bottom of the page in the online text), I see the “Eighteen Ways a Wife May be the Glory of Her Husband.”

okay. Let’s take them one by one.

1. Ask your husband, “What are your goals for the week?”
2. Ask your husband, “How can I help you to accomplish these goals?”
3. Ask your husband, “Is there anything that I can do differently that would make it easier for you?”

I’m good with all three of these, given my freakish organizational nature and textbook communication skills. I don’t think a weekend goes by where FirstHusband and I don’t talk about what’s going on during the upcoming week. So, these are great ideas. Not Biblical directives but good, solid ideas to strengthen a relationship and make a household run more smoothly. For a week, at least.

4. Be organized with cleaning, grocery shopping, laundry, and cooking. As you fulfill your God-given responsibilities, your husband is then free to do his work.

My “God-given responsibilities” are to be “organized with cleaning, grocery shopping, laundry, and cooking?” So the fact that my husband and I share these tasks means what? I’m outside of God’s will? What does it say about my husband? What does the Bible say about the yardwork? In our house, we’ve figured out a division of responsibilities that works for us. If I were to do all the household chores by myself, FirstHusband would come home to me sitting wide eyed and comatose, needed a shower and saying “ba baba ba, baba . . . ” (remember that scene in Overboard with Goldie Hawn?). Besides. That Proverbs 31 woman? She had “servant girls” – not “girl” as in singular, but “girls” as in, more than one.

And why is there no mention of ANY of the responsibilities that come with raising children? Seriously. I found the word “children” ONCE in this chapter. In #6 below, where she says I’m to put my husband before my children. Even then, sometimes that’s not possible. When an infant depends on one of your body parts for food, you have to feed them, even if it means your husband has to wait.

So for all the wives and mothers out there who are exhausted at the end of every day, who smell like curdled milk, who want to know how to get dried caramel off the seat of their van, who don’t remember what it’s like to go to the bathroom by themselves or without someone talking to them with their lips pressed to the crack in the door, who accidentally wear mismatched shoes to work, who just don’t seem to ever put themselves on their own to-do lists and who pro-actively strive to run an efficient, but loving home . . .

You need yourself some servant girls. No servant girls? Then, no condemnation for “failing” to “Be the Glory of your Husband” because you can’t cross this #4 off your list.

And that’s all I have to say about that. (for now.)

Back to the list:

5. Save some of your energy every day for him.

Again, a good, solid idea from Mrs. Peace. But it is dependent on how #4 works out for me on a given day. I try, but truth be told, there are times when my kids “swim down together” and wear. me. out.

6. Put him first over the children, your parents, friends, job, ladies’ Bible studies, etc.

We are a team and we work together to accomplish the goals we’ve set for our family. We’re each other’s best friend. We raise our kids together.

7. Willingly and cheerfully rearrange your schedule for him when necessary.

If one of us needs the other to be somewhere, we are – if at all possible (unless he’s out of town). Sometimes we make concessions. For example, I’m scheduled to sing at a Mother’s Day Brunch on Saturday. We recently bought a boat. So you know what he wants to do on Saturday. But he doesn’t want to go without me. Do I cancel because I’m supposed to put him first? Should I have said no to the commitment in the first place? He says no to both of those questions, because he’s encouraging me to use my gifts in ministry (#17 below), so I’m going to go glorify God Saturday morning.

8. Talk about him in a positive light to others. Do not slander him at all, even if what you are saying is true.

We Never. Never. Never speak negatively about each other to other people. We may tease and kid sometimes, but never in a way that might hurt each other’s feelings or betray our confidence in the other.

9. Do whatever you can to make him look good, to accomplish his goals. Some examples are offer to run errands for him, organize your day to be available to help him with his projects, pray for him and make good suggestions. Give him the freedom not to use your suggestion, and do not be offended if he does not follow it.

We’ve got each other’s back and do these things for each other. However, I know that I have more flexibility than some women when it comes to organizing my day to be available to help him. A woman with a full time job won’t have that same flexibility.

In our house, FirstHusband and I both do these things. I don’t see how any of these are unique to women. This is what committed, married, Christian husbands and wives should do for each other. We know it’s work and we consciously strive for it.

10. Consider his work (job, goals, hobbies, work for the Lord) as more important than your own.

Because he works full-time and I work part-time, this is easy for me. Any woman who relocates to follow her husband to a new job does this. However, I know there are women who haven taken on the role as the primary bread-winner and their husbands have adopted the role of homemaker. What about them?

11. Think of specific ways that you can help him accomplish his goals. Examples are get up early in the mornings to help him get off to work having had a good breakfast, take care in recording telephone messages for him, anticipate any needs he may have in order to attain a specific goal, and keep careful records of money spent to keep up with the budget.

For our house, these examples are meaningless. I just focus on numbers 1 and 2 on this list and treat my husband with courtesy and respect. I try to do random acts of kindness for him – every day.

12. Consider the things that you are involved in. How do they glorify your husband? Ask his guidance.

So the things I’m involved in should glorify my husband and I should ask him for guidance to stay on track with that? I’m not sure what Mrs. Peace means. I shouldn’t be involved in activities my husband doesn’t support? This is an easy one for me because FirstHusband is very supportive and there’s not much he has asked me not to do. Oh! He asked me not to dye my hair red, so I won’t.

Neither one of us take on commitments which impact our daily family life without discussing it first. We have family “policies” we’ve adopted over the years to help us make decisions quicker. Like, each kid can only be involved in two extra curricular activities at any one time. We don’t make commitments which have us out of the house on school nights. I work as a consultant, but my husband isn’t involved in my daily business dealings. He doesn’t want to be. We talk about our work challenges and successes, and we offer each other advice and encouragement, but we don’t get involved in each other’s work much more than that.

13. Be warm and gracious to his family and friends. Make your commitment to him obvious to them.
14. Do and say things that build him up instead of tear him down.

Again with the good, solid ideas. But again, not unique to women. It’s just what people who love each other should do.

15. Dress and apply your makeup in an attractive manner that is pleasing to your husband.

This is a tough one for some women. I admit, when my kids were little (babies and toddlers) it was more difficult to fit in self care. I did smell like curdled milk sometimes, but I often couldn’t fit in a shower until FirstHusband was home to take over kid care. Since I turned 40, I’ve been changing some things. Maybe I’ll post about it someday.

16. When your husband sins, reprove him privately and gently, always giving him hope and pointing him to the Lord.
17. Encourage him to use his spiritual gifts in ministry.

FirstHusband and I do both of these for each other. We have a conflict resolution model that we learned when we were dating and we’ve been using it for 18 years. We’ve both memorized the steps and are actually very good at fitting a conflict into the model very quickly. It’s just something we do instead of fight or yell at each other.

We also encourage each other in ministry – as it fits with our goals for our family. When his schedule permits, he volunteers with a mentorship program. We’ve taught Sunday School together. I’m a vocalist, but because of our commitment to be home on school nights, I don’t sing in the choir or with the worship team. Rather, I perform solos. I can rehearse in the car, on my own time – not during family time. I also spoke and lead music at a few retreats, but quickly realized I didn’t want to be away from my family for weekends, as retreat leadership would require. It just doesn’t fit with our family priorities right now.

18. Realize that just as God is glorified when man obeys Him, your husband is glorified when you obey your husband.

Glorified? Still creeped out. Honored? Perfect.

Obey? It’s easy to “obey” someone when they put my needs before their own. I’m blessed that FirstHusband does that for me. He has never authoritatively “ordered” me to do anything. In our relationship, we don’t “defy” each other’s wishes. We respect and support each other’s preferences, goals, ideas . . . you get the idea.

All in all, an interesting list. However, NO scripture to support the items on the list.

Moving on again, Mrs. Peace is discussing the effects of the fall of man, one of which is “a power struggle between the man and his wife.” She quotes scripture again, but adds her own parenthetical comment:

“Yet your desire (to control or overtake) shall be for your husband, And he shall rule (to have power) over you.

Genesis 3:16, emphasis and
parenthetical comment added”

So first she leaves something out of quoted scripture and makes no mention of it. Now she’s adding to scripture and, while telling us that she’s doing so, she doesn’t tell us why. I want to know why. I’ve always read that scripture in a very straightforward way. “Your desire shall be for your husband . . . ” Why is she saying that desire means “to control or overtake?” She doesn’t say. I read that section again. She doesn’t say. I read Chapter Six again. She doesn’t say. I have to hunt for it, so it’s back to www.blueletterbible.com for the meaning of the word “desire.” The Biblical Usage is referenced as:

1) desire, longing, craving

a) of man for woman
b) of woman for man
c) of beast to devour

Of beast to devour? Okay, then. Never heard this verse interpreted this way. The Greek word for desire is “tĕshuwqah” with the root meaning “shuwq” meaning “overflow.”

Again, I’m dense, so I Google “shuwq” and come up with this: “From shuwq; a street (as run over)

Not getting any better. So I search for commentary. Wow. I get it. All the commentaries I read pretty much said the same thing, but here’s the bottom line: This same word for desire is used in Genesis 4:7 – the desire of sin to master over Cain.

Okay, Mrs. Peace. NOW I understand why you added your parenthetical comment to Genesis 3:16.

Then she gets back to the obey and submit stuff. When I saw the diagram with the crown and the little church on page 54, I waited for felt to fall out of the book. Okay. That was mean. I know. But she could have saved me a LOT of time by providing a reference for her parenthetical comment about Genesis 3:16 and its relationship to Genesis 4:7. Mrs. Peace is making it difficult for me to understand her book without searching out additional resources. Leslie went in search also and discovered Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood. Check her post to her recommended reading of this great resource.

THAT was long. If you’re still with me . . . THANKS! And . . . if you did make it all the way here – and you haven’t clicked away, thinking “what a heathen!” – I would love to know your thoughts!

(Chapter Six is not the first, but rather the most recent pause I’ve taken while reading this book. I’m not sure if I’ll work backwards from here and explain – simply because it’s almost summer and I will have children standing between me and a complete thought for 2 1/2 months. We’ll see.)

10 thoughts on “researching the wife’s role

  1. Whew! OK. I’m going to have to read this post again and email you. Thanks for joining us this week!!

    Leslie – Sorry I’m late joining in! (by JSM)

  2. Stumbled on your blog surfing. Wonderful post! I, too, am suspicious of people who use the Bible selectively to support their views. I would not have had the patience to parse out the meanings like you have. I LOVE that you went back to some of the original Greek meanings. Isn’t the internet a WONDERFUL tool for doing that kind of studying? Thanks for your post!

    Debbie – I especially LOVE http://www.blueletterbible.com! (by JSM)

  3. Loved how you went through this piece by piece. And love how people like to ignore the fact that the Bible wasn’t written in verses and headings, and that just before “wives submit to husbands” it says “submit to one another”.

    People do need to be very very careful when people start making lists of “things” that they determine are how we should obey Scripture. Get up early and make breakfast? My husband was almost 35 when we got married! He wants a bowl of cereal in the morning. That he fixes himself.

    Okay, I’ll get off your soapbox now.

    But I’m glad to know you were spending lots of time doing this. I’ve been a bit concerned about your week. 🙂

    Linda – Thanks so much for your thoughts! The distraction was a very good thing. FirstHusband and I refer to doing stuff like this when we should be doing something else as “avoidance.” (by JSM)

  4. WOW! You ROCK!! My biggest “WHOA!” moment was the 1 Corinthians 11:7-9 passage that you pointed out wasn’t exactly from any version of the Bible. That has opened my eyes even more that I need to be careful about who’s “authority” I’m following. Excellent post – thx for taking the time & effort to do all that! And I found a new website – had never heard of Blue Letter Bible before. Thanks! Looks like a wonderful tool.

    MommyRidd – love, Love, LOVE my http://www.blueletterbible.org! Thanks for the comment! (by JSM)

  5. I made it through without a snack, although I’m hungry now. 🙂 Anyway, I was part of an Excellent Wife study 4 years ago–loved it. Then I went on to attend one of Mrs. Peace’s conferences–loved it. And then went on to teach this book to two different groups of women–loved it.

    What I found challenging about this book is the fact that I had to do and did do exactly as you’ve modeled in this post–find the scriptural support, understand the suggestions as exactly that, and take these things before the Lord with a yielded spirit and then to Husband with the same yielded spirit for where I had not honored him and would begin to do so.

    Mrs. Peace does treat this chapter as kind of a fire hose turned on full force event–lots of swallowing & gulping is involved. However, she does demonstrate through remaining chapters how these pieces fall together.

    The fact that she never lets the woman off the hook regarding her relationship to God & full obedience to His commands was very convicting to me. It caused me to realize that my “dishonoring” of Husband had its roots in my dishonoring God. And that I would never be an excellent anything if I was not repentant in that First relationship.

    Hope that you will continue to read. Delighted at how you exemplify the Berean. Thanks for the blueletterbible tip.


    Elle – The fact that you loved the book is even more reason to keep reading. I very much respect your opinion. I’ve got blueletterbible, biblegateway and a pile of commentaries for when I get stuck. And thanks for not thinking I’m a heathen. I was hesitant about posting my true thoughts about this chapter. I felt like an island when I hit the “post” button and I was very wary about how the post would be received.

    You are gracious. As always. (by JSM)

  6. Oh man, I am so behind in my reading and now I learn I’m supposed to be organized AND wear makeup? Bummer.

    Lisa – I’m more motivated to wear makeup if I think of it as tinted sunscreen. (by JSM)

  7. Hi, glad to see you’ve joined in the book study; I was away during chapter 6, but since there were so many post on it I decided to read them all no matter how long it took. Just an FYI… I stumbled upon the website you read chapter 6 with, and talked to the author of that site. She is no longer putting the book online.
    Anyway, her version of 1 Corinthians 11:7-9, is different from that of Martha’s book. The book uses the exact wording found on Bible Gateway… I didn’t have time to finish reading your post… but I wanted to let you know that as soon as possible… Can’t wait to finish your post and I am glad you have joined us. God Bless. Linda

    Linda – hmmm. I double checked. First I double checked my copy of the book. I did quote it correctly. Then I double checked all 21 versions of 1 Corinthians 11:7-9 on BibleGateway. Not one reads like the quoted verse in my book. Maybe we have a different edition of the book. Mine shows a copyright of 1999 by Focus Publishing. It says “Revised Edition” on the front cover. Click HERE to see the cover. (by JSM)

  8. Any woman that did all “stuff” (followed all the rules) in Martha Peace’s book, The Excellent Wife, and hovered over her husband like that would be a freakin controller.
    Don’t you see the pattern of a controller there? Planning and organizing for him, etc. is controlling behavior. I would think such a woman would be a drag to a man after a period of time, and that he would want to slough her off!! She would be like a leech.

  9. Hi, sorry it took so long to reply. I will check my edition of the book and let you know what I find. Thanks for your reply. Talk to you soon. Linda

  10. So I’m 1 1/2 years late to comment on this, but I was reading older posts and came across this.

    1. I’d love to do a study with you sometime. You’d challenge me!
    2. I bow and say “I’m not worthy! I’m not worthy!” before your researching skills.
    3. You and Firsthusband sound like you have a fantastic marriage. What is your conflict resolution model?

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